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Two too-hot pear

Says me: few plants are more gratifying than prickly pear cactus, Opuntia spp. At least, if you live in the desert, or any reasonably dry place.

Actually, even in not so dry places: we saw some naturalized in Aoteraroa (New Zealand), which seemed frankly bizarre, knowing how much rain that island gets (see the photo hanging off the very bottom of the post, like how NZ hangs off the bottom of the world).

And there are species that grow in cold-winter climates — like one that used to surprise me every time I saw it in the dry glades of Missouri.  It would lie down flat under the snow in winter, and just wait, hunkered down, for spring.  I seem to recall its Latin name was Opuntia humifusa, which at least sounds like it means that it grows stuck to the soil.

So, pretty much anywhere you live, there’s probably a variety of “pear” that will grow and bloom in your conditions, with little care other than a basic knowledge of what kind of light conditions it prefers, and how much moisture it requires or can tolerate. (Photos E.Shock; not color-enhanced)

The top two photos are of a couple of Opuntia blooming now in our yard.  The first one is Opuntia aciculata, or Chenille prickly pear, named after its deceptively velvety cinnamon spines called glochids; the other is a variety of Santa Rita prickly pear (Opuntia santa-rita), named after the southern Arizona mountains that are its home range.  The purple color of the pads is natural for this cactus if it’s allowed to grow with available moisture: it gets greener when it’s grown lushly, or in monsoon season when rain is more plentiful.

<< A naturalized “pear” growning in Rotorua, New Zealand.  Probably a sub-tropical species.  The plant it’s growing up into could be Manuka, famous for the honey bees make from it.

You may know that Opuntia pads are actually water-storing stems.  The plant’s leaves, sometimes only present for a short time as new pads are forming, grow on the edges and faces of young pads; you can see some tiny green-and-red leaves on the newest pads above the yellow flower on the Rita-pear above.

Posted by Allison on May 5th 2010 02:31 pm | 2 Comments
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2 Responses to “Two too-hot pear”

  1. sueon 06 May 2010 at 8:43 am link comment

    that Santa Rita Opuntia is stunning! Any idea where it might be purchased? oooph!

  2. Allisonon 07 May 2010 at 8:33 am link comment

    Yay! Go Sue — Down with lawn and up with rock and succulent gardens!

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